Thursday, November 22, 2007

Everyday can be Veterans Day

Warning; I am drinking eggnog with Old Crow. So this post may be sappy and/or emotional.

I missed posting anything about Veterans' Day last week. Some of my fellow bloggers had posts up about it. But does that mean that there can only be one day to honor the patriotic and loyal veterans who have served our great country? Let me answer that with an emphatic NO!
Today is Thanksgiving. As y'all know, I grew up in Flint, Michigan. Actually near Flint, but who's counting. This is the time of year when growing up my parents and I, after their divorce my mom and I, would go to my maternal grandparents for Thanksgiving Dinner. It was also the time of year when we would get out the Christmas music and decorations. I still have the old Elvis Sings the Wonderful World of Christmas record my dad had in 1971. I still play that record, full of 36 years of static, every year beginning on Thanksgiving. The record has traditional songs, along with sappy songs about being home for the holidays. Some of these songs are real tearjerkers. On many of these songs Elvis sings about being away from home and wanting to be with loved ones. I also have a 1970 copy from his first Christmas album, Elvis Christmas Album, from 1957. This is less sappy.
Anyways, listening gets me to thinking. I remember the Thanksgivings and Christmas' at my grandparent's. We would gather in the family room to eat a large meal and my grandpa would always sit at the table, in the corner of the room. Above him was his group photo from when he played football his senior year at Flint Central High School. He liked to sit in this spot, because he could watch the football games and eat.
My grandpa passed away 15 years ago in March, 10. It never really hit me until I was making Christmas presents for the family in 2004. I used my grandpa's old ties he wore when he was working at General Motors to make pillows for my mom, aunt and grandma. I hand sewed the ties together and made a square with each pair of ties. I sewed the "tie squares" to plain white bed sheets that had lace sewn to them, to make the back look a little prettier. The lace came from the curtains that were on my front door when I moved into my house. As y'all know, I like Rockabilly music and funky fifties stuff. So this lace did not work for my decor. It was too pretty to throw away. So I put it to use. I still put it to use every year by making saches for everyone. Back to the story about the pillows. I was listening to Christmas music and I would look at the ties and I started missing my grandpa. I thought about the holidays and spending time with family. I just burst out into tears.

The reason for this post is I came across a school report I wrote when I was in high school. I want to share this report with you. The report was for sophmore history class. We had to pick a historical event, person or time period. I chose the 1940's. I also added a story about my grandpa fighting in World War II. He may not be a hero in terms of having been famous, nor is his name in history books. But to my family, he is our hero.
This was only a few months before he passed away. I had a chance to record him on one of those little tape recorders. I still have that tape. From the recording I wrote down what he said. I will type the report, exactly the way I typed it in 1991 or 1992. You have to remember that I was only sixteen when I originally wrote this. I hope my writing skills have evolved since then. Read and enjoy!


Phil Harding was a senior at Flint Central High School when he quit school to join the Navy in December of 1942. Phil was in track and football at Central. He won a couple medals in track but he didn't get anything for football. He just turned 18 on Decamber 8th, which was a year and a day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. To go to war he had to go through a year of extensive training. First he went to Great Lakes Boot Camp. To be a radio man in a fighter plane he then attended Aviation Radio School in Memphis, Tennessee. After that he then traveled Ariel Gunnery School in Hollywood, Florida. Then in Fort Lauderdale Phil was training in Torpedo bombing. He came home on leave in Flint, afterwards he went to San Francisco from which he left on merchant ship to New Hebrides in the South Pacific in December of 1943. He was in Guadalcanal to be assigned to squadrons. Though he was trained in torpedo bombs, and had little training in dive bombs he was assigned to patrol bombs with B-24s. It was real hot and damp and him and a lot of the other guys couldn't wait to get out. They had a lot of laughs, a lot of good times and a lot of bad times. There wasn't much time for recreation. Once in a while they'd play baseball, but most of the time they were in combat. Some of his war buddies were Del Kelly and Lynn Chadnois*, he went to school with them. He ended spending 24 months in the South Pacific. When he first came back to the states he came back to San Francisco. He got a 30 day leave to go back home. After that he went back to California, but the war was over. He headed back to Great Lakes and was discharged. Some guys stayed in. He attended MSU**, but wasn't sure what he wanted to do. The government was giving away free land in Alaska to any vet who lived on the land for a year could own it. Phil owned 160 acres. In the summer he surveyed the land for the railroad and lived off that money he made during the winter.


* Yes that same Lynn Chandnois who played for MSU. Going on to play for the Pittsburg Steelers, drafted in 1950. He played football with my grandpa at Central.
** Currently MSU stands for Michigan State College. At the time my grandfather was attending it was Michigan Agricultural College.

I am so glad I was able to get this story out of him. He never talked about his time in the war to anyone, not even my grandma. I never really saw him too much in the hospital, during his last few months. But I recall my grandma, mom and aunt talked about him having "flashbacks." He would refuse to use the hospital bathroom, because "There were Japs in the latreen." Nobody really knew what that meant, except it had something to do with when he was in the war, was the best guess.
My cousins from my aunt are much younger than I am. They were quite young when he passed. When he was alive they were living in Virginia. I am planning on doing some sort of scrapbooking thing with the story and some graphics for them for Christmas. My grandma gave me his old military blanket. As much as I hate to cut it up, I just might do that and make something. This way everyone can share it. Maybe I can make more pillows out of it. Maybe some sort of tapestry for my cousins. On both projects I could use other scrap fabrics, for decoration.
I think I get my passion for politics from my grandpa. I share his belief in honesty and fairness in government. I share his patriotic love of this great country. I remember when I was a kid, the only thing he watched on TV was sports, news and C-Span. I recall him sitting in his big old recliner in the family room watching C-Span, Pabst Blue Ribbon in one hand and a Pall Mall in the other, yelling at the liberals like Ted Kennedy. I can't remember who else he yelled at. He did like the former Texas Governor Ann Richards. He didn't like her politics, but he liked that she was feisty and stood up for what she believed.
He was a Republican, but didn't have blind loyalty. He would be just as mad at corrupt Republicans as corrupt Democrats. Maybe more so at corrupt Republicans. Because that was his party. And he would be ashamed that they would sink to the level of Democrats. Grandpa liked Ike and I like Mike. I think grandpa would like Mike Huckabee also, for his honesty and desire to put the American people first.

Y'all have a Happy Thanksgiving and God Bless from the Upper Peninsula in Michigan!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing, disturbing, disgusting: chedk out this youtube clip about Giuliani's close friendship with an accused child molestor - . Forward it on if you're as disturbed as I am.